Major restaurant groups have joined forces to call for further support in enabling restaurants across the UK to weather the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
CEOs from more than 330 restaurant partners, including Itsu, Pizza Hut, Deliveroo and Rosa’s Thai Cafe, have written to the Prime Minister with a five-point plan to ensure the sector’s recovery.
They said they recognise the important help the government has provided over the past year, but argue that it is critical that financial and practical support continues in order to protect jobs in the restaurant sector.
The letter warns that if the government withdraws support too early or too suddenly, it will “risk viable businesses failing just as the light at the end of the tunnel is becoming clearer”.
In a detailed submission to the government, the signatories urge ministers to take five steps to support UK restaurants to survive the ongoing pandemic. These include:
1. Extending VAT reduction: The government should extend the VAT cut on restaurant food until the end of 2021, and consider the case for making the VAT cut permanent in future.
2. Extend business rates relief: Extending the business rates relief for a further financial year will prevent more empty premises on UK high streets post-pandemic
3. Maintain the furlough scheme: The government can give both staff and business owners confidence about their future by committing to maintain the furlough scheme as long as is necessary for restaurants to fully return to dine-in.
4. Support businesses on rent: When the eviction moratorium ends, the government should work to ensure that landlords are prevented from evicting tenants based on rent arrears, provided tenant businesses pay current rent obligations and agree to a payment plan to repay past liabilities.
5. Take action on testing and vaccinations: The government should ensure that key workers in the food sector are part of the second phase of vaccine rollout – after NHS staff, police and teachers – and seek to deploy lateral flow testing kits that can be administered in restaurant kitchens.
The letter also proposes policies for how the sector can be supported post-pandemic.
These include a renewal of the Eat Out to Help Out scheme when it is safe to re-open restaurants; incentivising restaurants to recruit and retain staff by allowing them to take on new staff without the additional burden of National Insurance Contributions for at least six months; and the government providing targeted relief to encourage business investment and innovation in the restaurant sector post-pandemic.